Saffron (Kesar) - The world’s most expensive spice also known as, The golden spice.
Saffron (Kesar) is the most fascinating and intriguing plant spice. The name saffron or Kesar is commonly used to refer both to the spice and the plant itself. Saffron is also called The Golden Spice and is the most expensive spice by weight.
Saffron is produced from the brilliant orange-red stigmas (20 to 30 mm long) along with approximately 35 to 50 mm portion of style. Saffron contains water (14.5 to 15.5%) protein (12.5 to 13.5%) total Nitrogen free extract (54.5 to 57.5%), starch and sugar (12.0 to 13.5%) , fixed oil (4.7 to 8.5%), volatile oil (0.7 to 0.8%), crude fibre (4.0 to 5.0%), ash (4.0 to 4.5 %) and traces of potassium, phosphorous and boron.
Pure Saffron (Kesar) and it's colour
Saffron being expensive is also one of the most adulterated spice and it is often said that Saffron should give good colour, and you might be wondering that what is the Colour of Original Saffron(Kesar)? And what gives Saffron its Colour?
Original Saffron should give bright yellow-orange colour and that Original Saffron (Kesar) liberates colour gradually – unlike dyed saffron which gives colour instantly when soaked in water. And, the yellow colour liberated in water by saffron is from crocin which is a yellow-red glycoside pigment in Saffron.
Besides, its colour Saffron has a distinct flavour and the main factor in Saffron flavour is a colourless glycoside called Picrocrocin. This compound during drying and storage, changes to Safranal. Safranal along with nine other compounds is responsible for the aroma and smell of saffron.
These traits make Saffron (Kesar) a much-sought ingredient in many foods worldwide and particularly in India, for Kesar, besides its use in food is very much associated with religious rituals and customs; that the colour of Kesar in Hinduism stands for purity and divine strength, and that colour of Kesar is also the colour that signifies renunciation – This is how monks wear this colour signifying that they have given up all the materialistic pleasures of life.
Further, Saffron is a natural organic colourant and unlike other plant colourants, it is highly permanent and does not fade easily. Due to this property Saffron finds its use in the food industry. These days, there is a rising trend of using natural and plant substances and replacing chemical and synthetic food additives with natural ones, for the reason that while using chemical and artificial colourants are used to keep the originality of food products, but with their use, there have been reports of allergic reactions and other ailments like indigestion from artificial additives some being even more hazardous; contrary to these natural colourants like Saffron, of what nature has conformed with its potent use and its strong colouring capability, is safe to use without any marked side effects.
With these characteristics, Saffron is an ideal natural substitute in food technology as a colourant, for flavouring and aromatic use. Saffron adds not only a beautiful golden colour but also a pungent and aromatic flavour to foods.
The higher the colouring strength of Saffron, the higher it is valued and Kashmir Saffron has more value owing to its very high crocin content which is perhaps the highest in the World, making Kashmir Saffron, the best in the world!
Why is Saffron (Kesar) so expensive?
At ABK we have been selling, this best Kesar in the world for more than five decades and ABK stands as a mark of trust. At ABK we are frequently asked by our clients that, Why is Saffron so expensive?
Well, the high cost of saffron is primarily due to the very high cost of labour and inputs in the cultivation of saffron; labour component accounts for about 47% and all other inputs account for 53% of the total cost of cultivation of Saffron.
An estimate of the intensive manual labour component can be made from the fact that the flowers of Saffron need to be picked individually by hand!
The flowers are then dried naturally in the sun, taking about five days to dry them out. However, Nowadays, some farmers are using solar-powered dryers to expedite the drying process which still takes about eight hours.
The dried flowers must then be processed by hand, where the precious stigmas (Saffron strands) are carefully removed. It takes about 90 man-days to separate the Stigmas from saffron flowers produced from 1 hectare of land.
And these labour days are required in October and November when the farmers are busy with other agricultural activities making the availability of labour hard and expensive. Once extracted, the stigmas must be dried quickly, lest decomposition or mould ruin the batch's marketability.
It is fascinating to know that One kg of dried saffron is obtained from the separation of Stigmas from nearly 45 kg to 50 kg of fresh flowers, which correspond to about 1,15,000 to 1,50,000 flowers of Saffron!
If Saffron (Kesar) is expensive, is it as expensive as Gold?
People often compare Saffron to Gold for its high value. But Gold is around 15 times more expensive than Saffron and whereas an ounce of Gold in India would cost about Rs. 1,32,000 (when this text was written) an ounce of Saffron in contrast in India would cost just about Rs. 9000. But for fact that Saffron in spices being at the top so far as price is concerned which is true for gold in metals - This comparison is fair!